Firms put sculptor in the dock

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Plans to set up a 30ft-high statue by one of Britain's leading sculptors in Docklands are being opposed by local businesses because it is the 'wrong sort' of art.

Allen Jones, whose work is exhibited in the Tate gallery, is about to start work on what he describes as a 'Matissian reclining figure'.

It will be on display in Poplar at the Leamouth roundabout, the former site of the East India Dock, and has been commissioned by the London Docklands Development Corporation at a cost of pounds 30,000.

The controversy centres on whether the artwork captures the spirit of the area. Jones says the work is designed to 'humanise' an area which 'is growing out of a wasteland'.

However, some businesses say he has been given too much artistic licence and his work is out of keeping with the former dock's history. The LDDC had hoped businesses would help to fund the project, but when no money was forthcoming it decided to go ahead alone.

East India, at the northern end of Blackwall tunnel, opened in 1806 and is one of the capital's oldest docks. In its heyday it handled tea, spices, silks and porcelain and at the end of the 19th century dealt with 3 per cent of all London's incoming cargo.

Robin Tassell, managing director of NCC Property, said: 'It doesn't really capture anything to do with the history of the East India Dock and was slightly detached from our thinking.

'We would have loved to contribute had we been consulted but we wanted something which respects local people and local businesses. There's alot of history here.'

Doubts about the project were reflected in the East London Advertiser, which announced the statue's impending arrival with the headline 'It's 30ft high and it's coming this way]' The paper asked readers to write in with their views.

Richard Tidiman, the editor, said yesterday he had received only one letter. 'I think people are stunned into silence. They have had so many strange things going on around here that one more doesn't make much difference.'

Jones, somewhat perplexed by the fuss, said his statue will add interest and a human dimension to an otherwise impersonal area. 'It will be something readily identifiable for people to look at while they are stuck in traffic.'

Born in Southampton in 1937, he studied at Hornsey School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Since the early Sixties, he has been one of Britain's best-known pop artists, working as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist.

Jones believes that, although there might be grumbling at first, he is confident people would come to like the statue. His work is held in

public collections in Cologne, Amsterdam, Stockholm, New York, Vancouver and Sydney.

Several works are in the Tate Gallery, including his 1969 sculpture of a provocatively clad woman, The Chair, and several aintings. Recent one-man exhibitions have taken place in Madrid, Dusseldorf and Waddington Galleries, London.

Tricia Williamson, for the LDDC, said the idea for the sculpture came from a temporary exhibition of Art Roundabouts, which included placing works of art on nine traffic islands throughout Docklands to enhance its aesthetic value.

'The local businesses knew his work and the decision was taken that we would go with Allen Jones. Then they implied they objected to the sculpture,' Ms Williamson said.

'In the end the local businesses said they couldn't provide the money so we went ahead anyway.'

(Photographs omitted)